Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The filibuster agreement

is plainly not everything that either side wanted, but I can't help feeling that seven Republican senators, eager for a pat on the back from the media and left-wing blowhards, betrayed their caucus and handed the Democrats nearly everything they could have hoped for.

Why is it fair that Owen, Brown & Pryor get a vote, but Myers and Saad do not? The Republicans could have, with a little party discipline, had votes on all five (and likely victories in each case). Instead, Myers & Saad get thrown under the bus. I'm particularly disturbed by Myers, who would have been a judge on the yahoo Ninth Circuit.

(By the way, by including Owen in the list of judges who get a vote, the Democrats' screams of extremism are exposed for the partisan BS they truly are. If Owen was so "extreme," she shouldn't be getting a vote, should she?)

The Democrats will only filibuster under "extraordinary circumstances." What the hell does that mean? When the moon is full? When the president doesn't kiss Henry Reid's backside for a blessing on his next judicial nomination? On any supreme court nomination? I think the latter is likely, but the Seven Republicans didn't define that particular catch phrase. Maybe they think the Democrats will truly be restrained in using the filibuster, but when one of the signatories is Robert Byrd, I have a hard time believing it.

They will oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress? So the Democrats can use the filibuster in certain circumstances, but the Republicans have to sit on their hands and allow the minority to, once again, dictate the rules?

And what's this see-are-a-pee about the Senate's Advice and Consent role? "We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word 'Advice' speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President’s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration."

Show me where it says that! It doesn't! Argh.

Part of me wants to see the Republicans pick up five more seats so the Democrats will just shut up. There are a couple of possibilities, as Democrats Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, along with Independent James Jeffords of Vermont, are not running for reelection. Possible vulnerabilities include Maria Cantwell in Washington, Kent Conrad in North Dakota, and Ben Nelson in Nebraska.

Other Democrats up for reelection in 2006 include: Akaka (HI); Bingaman (NM); Byrd (WV); Carper (DE); Clinton (NY); Corzine (NJ); Feinstein (CA); Kennedy (MA); Kohl (WI); Lieberman (CT); Nelson (FL); and Stabenow (MI).

However, the Republicans would have to hold all their current seats, which may be difficult considering those up for reelection include Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Olympia Snowe of Maine, all of whom were among the Republican Seven. The anger against those three will likely cost one or more of them a seat. In addition, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is in for a tight race, and who knows what Bill Frist will do.

Other Republicans up for reelection in 2006 include Ensign (NV); Hatch (UT); Hutchison (TX); Kyl (AZ); Lott (MS); and Lugar (IN).

But a part of me wants to see the Republicans lose seats, and lose them in such a way that it's clear that the loss is payback for the filibuster shenanigans. I'm not so sure I'm brave enough to wish for a Republican minority, especially while a Republican president is still in office, but really, what's the point of having a majority if you can't accomplish your agenda?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Poor by choice

This month's issue of Brainstorm Northwest includes a great essay by Dave Lister, a Portland small business owner, business advocate & writer. I usually find Lister to be a bit too irreverent in his writing, but this month's topic is spot-on in the analysis of the liberal state of Portland.

(The magazine, which takes a conservative slant on the issues facing the city, has a website, but does not place all its articles online. No link is available for Lister's article.)

Lister begins by talking about when the first President Bush visited a vessel repair shipyard in Portland, which offered good-paying jobs to hundreds of families through government contracts. Bush was met at the organized-labor shop by catcalls & boos; it may have been this visit that reportedly caused Bush to label Portland "Little Beirut." A year later, the contracts dried up and the shop closed.

Since then, Portland's reputation as Little Beirut has only become more well-earned. Protesters (sometimes violently) take over city streets for the protest du jour, then blame the police when they have to use non-lethal means to restore order. Seven Portlanders are convicted on terrorism charges (with help from the Patriot Act), including one who worked as an intern in the previous mayor's office. Reed College, as far left as you can go in Portland, invites Colorado professor Ward Churchill to speak. The city becomes the first in the nation to withdraw from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), as newly-elected Mayor Tom Potter cites free speech concerns about the Patriot Act while simultaneously making it clear that any city workers who speak with the media will have a mighty uncomfortable life. The city commissioner who oversaw the loss of millions of dollars through the city's water bureau is suddenly the point man in the city's efforts to buy Portland General Electric from Enron. The council, while cutting nearly $10 million from the budget, decides to finance political campaigns with public money (which is ironic, considering Potter refused to accept large donations during the campaign, while opponent Jim Francesconi raised a million dollars in a losing effort).

And none of this even touches the city's approaching-legendary antipathy (at best) toward business growth. Lister writes, "The policy decisions of the last 12 years have resulted in diminishing school enrollment as families flee to the suburbs, declining business tax revenue as all manner of businesses jump the county line, and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation."

It is events like these, Lister notes, "that has the rest of the nation asking, 'What are they smoking out there?' "

Lister answers the question by recalling the words of Frank Ivancie, who served in the early '80s as the only pseudo-conservative Portland mayor of the last 35 years:
Why would the city's leaders take a harder turn to the left, when a turn to the right is so clearly indicated? The answer to this question can be found by attending City Council sessions and observing the crowd.

Former Mayor Frank Ivancie coined a phrase to describe a certain segment of Portland's population. The phrase was "poor by choice." Portland replete with people who are poor by choice. The poor by choice work part time in the secondhand boutiques, take classes now and then at PSU, and talk about the revolution while they sip coffee in the peoples' cooperative cafes. The poor by choice post lofty thoughts on anarchist weblogs, turn out in droves to protest any social injustice, and blow red lights on their bicycles.

And the poor by choice attend Portland City Council sessions . . . big time.

Last month I went to hear Commissioner [Randy] Leonard's proposal to pull out of the JTTF. The poor by choice had packed the chamber. It was so packed that I had to take a seat in the balcony. As I sat silently in the middle of a crowd of poor by choice, who vigorously waved their hands whenever anyone spoke ill of the FBI, the Bush Administration or the Patriot Act, I imagined myself looking out from the commissioners' dias. And then I understood. From the commissioners' perspective the people before them were the constituency. The hard working, taxpaying folks weren't there. The parents of school children weren't there. The business owners weren't there. Anyone not there was unseen, and not part of the constituency.

In the past, Portland's job creators have participated in the political process by funding the campaigns of the candidates who share their views on what's needed for the city's economic health. When the council adopts "clean money" campaign financing that participation will end. The only way they will be heard then is to go downtown and mix it up with the poor by choice.

The question is, will they? Somehow, I don't think so. I think they will vote with their feet. And walk away.
When businesses like Columbia Sportswear move to the suburbs because they couldn't get anyone to listen to their concerns in the city, when Portland School District attendance has dropped by more than 40 percent in the last 40 years, and when a slew of smaller companies are quietly dropping out of the city because of the impact on their bottom line, one thing is clear: Lister's belief that people will vote with their feet is not just conjecture. They already are.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The ACLU's threats

In August 2004 near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the American Civil Liberties Union settled a lawsuit contending the Tangipahoa Parish public schools were mixing religion with government. The settlement stipulated there would be no public-address broadcast prayers before games, no PA-broadcast student prayers, and no school official participation or encouragement of student-led prayers.

On Wednesday, the ACLU claimed in a court filing that the schools have consistently flouted that settlement. Specifically, the ACLU wrote that Shane Tycer, a private citizen (not a school employee) waiting for the start of a baseball game, noted the absence of the usual public address announcer, so he grabbed the microphone and started the game with a prayer: “Lord watch over these teams and keep them and all of us safe. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Apparently, the mention of Jesus was enough to throw the ACLU into conniption fits, because as everyone knows, any mention of Jesus is enough to entice the whole crowd to bow at the foot of the cross.

"Defendants believed that they could nullify the agreed upon Consent Judgment and Court issued permanent injunction by carrying out the prohibitive acts through Mr. Tycer, a willing aider and abettor," the ACLU wrote. It added that someone should have tried to stop Mr. Tycer, or at least should have removed him from the PA booth and "repudiated" his actions.

Thus, the ACLU essentially accuses Mr. Tycer of conspiracy with the school officials, because both the principal and the regular PA announcer happened to arrive late for the game, and Mr. Tycer claimed he was unaware of the settlement. "If not an employee, he was clearly an agent of the Board," the ACLU wrote. "He was using the high school’s equipment and facilities, with the high school’s approval. He was performing the same functions and duties of . . . the regular play-by-play announcer."

Yeah, he spontaneously grabbed the microphone and said a prayer. That makes him "an agent of the board," acting with the school's approval. Hogwash.

The court filing continued that the settlement was "extensively publicized . . . (and) was discussed extensively at school board meetings, which were widely attended. For either defendants or Mr. Tycer to contend that . . . he was not aware of it, they would have to assume that everyone had taken leave of their common sense . . . It is submitted that that is how he was able to reach the illogical conclusion that, as long as he was not an employee or agent of the Board, he could give a pregame invocation."

I can practically hear the hyperventilation of the writer. He knew it! I know he knew it! He had to know it! If he claims he didn't know it, he's a stupid hick!

What a bunch of hooey. The ACLU has made enough of a fuss about public prayers led by government employees that it's not a stretch for someone to assume that, as a private citizen acting of his own accord, it would be OK to say a quick prayer. But no, the ACLU will have none of that. It sues the school district for not having enough common sense to avoid "government sponsorship of religion," and then rejects any claims of ignorance by claiming the district and its patrons have enough common sense to know better.

What takes the cake, however, is something I haven't been able to verify. The Baton Rouge Advocate prints an AP story, which reports that the ACLU's court filing said: "The consent judgment is repeatedly violated by these individuals because they do not believe anything will happen to them. Their refusal to comply with the consent decree should and must result in their removal from society."

If this quote is true (and it's not in the court motion available on the ACLU's website), I think the ACLU is calling for the judge to impose jail time. But picture for a moment if a conservative claimed someone (pick one — a judge, an abortion doctor, a liberal politician, the ACLU — or insert your own) was breaking the law and needed to be "removed from society." How long would it take before Howard Dean or Chuck Schumer or Al Gore was screaming that the conservative was threatening said subject and calling for that subject's death and/or destruction?

Seems like a bit of a double standard to me.


I like Rick Santorum...

but he apparently violated Godwin's Law Thursday in an attempt to describe how Democrats have recently changed two centuries of understanding about how the filibuster should work.

If the Democrats can't do it, the Republicans shouldn't either.

(HT: Glenn)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Political diversity at Oregon's major colleges

For anyone who thinks colleges in general, and Oregon's state schools in particular, are not bastions of liberalism, just follow the money.

For the 2004 presidential race, giving from employees at the University of Oregon to a candidate went like this:
John Kerry: 23 donations, 18 people, $9,400
Howard Dean: 3 donations, $961
John Edwards: 1 donation, $250
Dennis Kucinich: 1 donation, $500
George W. Bush: No donations

Giving from employees at Oregon State University looked like this:
John Kerry: 15 donations, 11 people, $7,800
George W. Bush:
3 donations, $2,700
(Almost a 3:1 margin)

Giving from employees at Portland State University looked like this:
John Kerry: 16 donations, 12 people, $7,900
George W. Bush: 3 donations, $2,500 (two donations were from a student for $500 total)
Howard Dean: 8 donations, 5 people, $2,400
Wesley Clark: 2 donations, $750
Dennis Kucinich: 1 donation, $700
(Almost a 5:1 margin)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I’ve got a Stealth bomber right here under my roof...

Here's a teaser from one of my favorite online writers, Tony Woodlief:
If he can be that accurate with his butt, imagine what he'll be able to do with a .50 caliber M88 from 300 yards.
Read the whole thing. It's hilarious.

More on filibusters

"The Democrats in the Senate were elected by the people (and represent more than half of American voters)."

So says a post on the previous blog entry. True, but Senate votes are not based on population served. That's the House of Representatives. Senate votes are based on majority rule, plain & simple. It may be an insult to some Democrats to call them "unreasonable," but it is indeed unreasonable for a minority in the Senate to impose its will on the majority.

This argument about how the Democrats have blocked only 10 out of Bush's 200+ nominees is a joke. You're not comparing apples to apples. According to Gerry Daly, Bill Clinton saw 61 percent of his circuit court nominees approved by the Senate (86 percent in his first four years); George W. Bush has seen just 53 percent of his circuit court nominees approved. If these folks are indeed "bad judges," I again assert that the Democrats should make that case on the floor and persuade a majority of Senators to vote no. Why are you afraid of a vote?

Regarding how the Democrats will approve some judges, and will even let the Republicans pick which nominees get approval. That sounds so nice, so bipartisan...and is such baloney. If the Democrats don't care which nominees get approval, they're explicity admitting that their claim of extremism is false — they just want to filibuster someone to be a pain in the GOP neck.

Finally, this urban legend about how Attorney General Alberto Gonzales accused Priscilla Owen of "judicial activism" when they were members of the Texas Supreme Court is an outright lie. Here is Gonzales at his AG confirmation hearing:
Let me just say at the outset regarding Judge Owen: I served with Judge Owen on the Texas Supreme Court, and I think she did a splendid job, a superb job as a judge. I think she would make a superb judge on the 5th Circuit, and that's why her name was recommended to the president. There were a series of very contentious cases -- opinions written in connection with six cases, I think, involving four minor daughters in the year 2000 while I was on the court. It is true that the law -- the legislature made it a policy judgment that they wanted more -- they wanted parents more involved with the abortion decisions of their minor daughters. But the legislature did not make the parental rights absolute; they provided three exceptions. And most of the decisions of the court involved -- are about interpreting those exceptions, allowing a judicial bypass.

My comment about an act of judicial activism was not focused at Judge Owen or Judge Hecht; it was actually focused at me. What I was saying in that opinion was that, given my interpretation of what the legislature intended, by the way the words that they used in terms of having a minor not totally informed or well informed but sufficiently well informed and the structure of the act, it was in my judgment that the legislature did intend the judicial bypasses to be real. And given my conclusion about what the legislature intended, it would have been an act of judicial activism not to have granted the bypass in that particular case. If someone like Judge Owen in that case reached a different conclusion about what the legislature intended, it would have been perfectly reasonable for her to reach a different outcome. But as to the words that have been used as a sword against Judge Owen, let me just say that those words were related to me in terms of my interpretation of what the legislature intended, again, through the words of the statute and the way that the judicial bypass procedure would actually operate in practice.
In case you need another explanation, read this.

The Democrats love to see their will imposed on the country through court rulings against the constitutionality of marriage amendments or abortion restrictions, even when the "right to privacy" or the "separation of church & state" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution; that's what this is really about — control of the judiciary, which has been the far left's best friend over the last 30 years. I would think the Democrats, with their love of constitutional findings, would understand that the filibuster is not allowed under our founding documents. Or is only unconstitutional when you don't agree with it?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

My letter to my senators, and the squishy

Here's the letter I sent tonight to my senators, along with those still considered "on the fence" about the filibuster issue. I made some minor modifications, depending on who I was writing to, but this is it by and large:

Dear Senator,

I am writing about the upcoming vote on continuing the filibuster of judicial nominees. I ask you to support Sen. Frist in his efforts to restore a democratic vote to the Senate judicial process.

If a senator (of either party) opposes a nominee, that senator should take the floor to explain why fellow senators should vote against the nominee. If a nominee is truly “out of the mainstream,” it should not be difficult to convince six Republicans to join the Democratic caucus. The filibuster, as used properly, can be a tool of persuasion due to its extended debate, but it should not be a coup against the majority.

The arguments against the filibuster do not hold water, but of particular disgust to me is Democrats who talk out of both sides of their mouths on this issue. I could provide countless examples of Democratic senators — Leahy, Boxer, Kennedy & Byrd, among others — who fought against the filibuster as the majority, only to sing its praises in the minority. This is the height of hypocrisy.

Democrats claim that the Senate is the last remaining bastion of preserving minority rights through such mechanisms as the filibuster. However, the filibuster is a Senate rule, not a constitutional provision, and has been changed numerous times throughout the Senate’s history. In fact, Democrats have on several occasions done exactly what the Republicans now propose.

Democrats claim that the nomination of a judge, being a lifetime appointment, is so important that no judge should be approved with only a bare majority. It’s an interesting statement that certainly holds some validity as to the importance of the position, but it holds no water from a constitutional basis. There is no constitutional provision for judicial nomination super-majorities, nor is there a constitutional provision for filibusters.

Even if you can somehow muster a constitutional argument, questions about its constitutionality do not change the fact that Democrats have abused the provision since losing the Senate in 2002. It is more easily argued that their position of asserting minority rule over the majority is anti-constitutional.

In fact, before 2003 the filibuster was used to defeat a judicial nomination on only one occasion, in a bipartisan manner against Abe Fortas. Nineteen Democrats joined 24 Republicans in voting against cloture, and it was clear Fortas did not have the support of the Senate majority. Also, Fortas’ nomination lasted only four days before it was withdrawn; by contrast, some of the Democrats’ current filibusters have gone on for years.

There has been a clear understanding over the past 200 years that the filibuster is overstepping constitutional bounds against judicial nominees. To filibuster legislation, which is the sole realm of the legislative branch, is one thing; to employ the filibuster in a way that adversely impacts another governmental branch in a situation where the Constitution dictates joint responsibilities between branches, is quite another. The filibuster is not a form of Advice & Consent — it is blatant obstruction to constitutionally-dictated responsibilities.

The Democrats like to claim the filibuster is part of the checks and balances established by the Founding Fathers, but I find this a bunch of hooey. The checks and balances are in place to make sure no one branch of government (e.g. the president) has absolute power (e.g. he can’t do as he pleases with judges), but rather has to get approval from another branch. The filibuster allows a minority to take away the majority’s rights within one branch. That’s not a check and balance — it’s legislative fiat.

I also find the argument that Republicans started this issue against President Clinton to be too much finger-pointing. In Clinton’s first two years, he had a Democrat-controlled Senate, and 19 of his 22 nominations were confirmed (and no nominees were filibustered by the GOP minority). After 1994, Clinton had to work with a Republican Senate to get his nominations through committee and out to a floor vote. Let me repeat that: the Republicans controlled the Senate, as well as the judiciary committee, so they could offer their Advice & Consent role as the controlling party. Like it or not, if they didn't approve of a nominee, the voters had given them a majority so they could refuse those nominees (either in committee or on the floor).

President Bush is asking for the same Advice & Consent, and he's had the votes for his nominees since Republicans took over in 2002. The Democrats refuse to offer Advice & Consent because they're suddenly in the minority, so they undertake the filibuster to take away the majority rights they enjoyed for so many years.

Sen. Reid’s compromise offers, to allow a certain number of votes in exchange for a certain number of filibusters, are a joke. When Reid says Republicans can choose which candidates should have guaranteed votes, he might as well admit that none of the nominees are “out of the mainstream,’ as the accusation goes, but rather that Reid and the Democrats just want to be a continued thorn in the president’s side.

Let me finish with something that your colleague, Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, recently wrote: “The people have only two methods for influencing the selection of federal judges: their votes for president and their votes for senator. In November they rejected the presidential candidate who vowed to impose an ideological litmus test on all judicial nominees, and they chose the one who promised to appoint men and women who would uphold the law. They voted out the Senate minority leader who devised these destructive judicial filibusters and returned a Republican Senate with an enlarged majority. Senate Democrats however, have opted to disrespect the people’s voice and continue their audacious and constitutionally groundless claims for minority rule.”

In other words, elections have meaning and consequences, and it’s the expectation of the American people that their elected representatives listen to those messages.

This vote on the future of the filibuster will be remembered by your constituents and the American people for years to come — or at least until your next election. I look forward to your vote.

Thanks for your time.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Sen. Schumer makes up stuff

The other day, Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, spoke on the Senate floor about the filibuster and the balance of power in the Senate. Here's a portion of his remarks:
The Senate is not a majoritarian body. My good friend from Utah got up and spoke. I think he represents about 2 million people in Utah. I represent 19 million in New York State. We have the same vote. You could have 51 votes for a judge on this floor that represents 21 percent of the American people. So the bottom line is very simple. This has not always been a 50.1 to 49.9 body. It has been a body that has had to work, by its rules, and by the Founding Fathers' intent, that even when you are in the majority, you have to reach out and meet, not all, not most, but some of the concerns of the minority.
This is a red herring. Sen. Schumer says the founding fathers established the Senate with all states having an equal vote regardless of population, unlike the House of Representatives with its population-based membership numbers. Somehow, he thinks he's making an argument for the constitutionality of the filibuster, for the rights of a minority to trump the will of the majority, by noting the Senate's equal representation setup.

This is ludicrous. Despite the fact that the Senate provides equal representation, it's still a majoritarian body. If 51 Senators vote in favor of something (or someone), they don't hold the vote count while they add up the population of the states represented by those 51 senators to ensure it's a majority of citizens. Sen. Schumer is refuting his own argument by noting that "we have the same vote."

But his comments got me to thinking: what's the population of states that voted for Bush vs. those that voted for Kerry? If Schumer thinks population should trump majority rule in the Senate, then surely he would follow whichever party won the states with the highest population of citizens in the 2004 election. Here it is:


(These accumulations are based on the population of states each presidential candidate won in 2004, but population numbers are from the 2000 census.)

Now, maybe he was talking about the population of voters represented in the Senate, which would give the Democrats an edge (117.6 million vs. 112.8 million, with another 50.3 million split because of states that have one Senator from each party). But again, this is irrelevant. Until such time as the Constitution is changed to factor in population in Senate voting or makeup, the Senate (as Schumer noted) offers one vote per member. Fifty-one votes still constitutes a majority, and the Constitution says nothing about the necessity of a super-majority to approve a judicial nomination.

One other thing — I keep hearing arguments that the Republicans blocked plenty of Clinton nominees in committee, but there's a point I never hear in response. During the first two years of Clinton's term, the Democrats held a 57-43 advantage in the Senate. During that time, 19 of Clinton's 22 Circuit Court nominees were confirmed, and none were filibustered by the Republican minority.

Starting in 1994, the Republicans took control of the Senate; over the next six years, the Republican majority confirmed 46 of Clinton's 84 nominees, or almost 55 percent. In comparison, 53 percent of Bush 43's Circuit Court nominees have been confirmed.

The whole point of this is that Clinton had to work with a Republican Senate to get his nominations through committee and out to a floor vote. Let me repeat that: the Republicans controlled the Senate, as well as the judiciary committee, so they could offer their Advice & Consent role as the controlling party. Like it or not, if they didn't approve of a nominee, the voters had given them a majority so they could refuse those nominees (either in committee or on the floor).

Bush 43 is asking for the same Advice & Consent, but he's had a Republican Senate since 2002. The Democrats refuse to offer Advice & Consent because they're suddenly in the minority, so they undertake the filibuster to take away the majority rights they enjoyed for so many years prior to 1994. (Thanks to dalythoughts.com for the info.)

Guess what? Elections matter.

The 1992 election mattered because it gave the Democrats the presidency & Senate, and they took advantage of that power to approve 86 percent of Clinton's Circuit Court nominees.

The 1994 election mattered because the Democrats lost control of the Senate, and a Democratic president had to work with a Republican senate.

The 2000 election mattered because the parties traded sides, so a Republican president had to work with a Democratic senate.

And the 2002 election mattered because it gave the Republicans both the presidency & Senate (and theoretically, the power that goes with it). But the Democrats don't want to recognize that power, or the voice of the American voter, so they take their toys and go home.

It's time for that to stop. End the judicial filibuster.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A commenter makes my point

In response to yesterday's post about the Multnomah Bar Association newsletter article, a blogger from Chicago who goes by the name of Demondog responded. First, let me say thanks for taking the time to read my post and leaving your own! I especially appreciated your comments about approaching debates across the political aisle.

I was also somewhat amused by your post, because I think you (perhaps inadvertently) provided evidence to support my opinion about the media's lack of information.

First, you ask (I'm assuming you refer to the Schiavo situation) why I care. "I realize it's a human life," you write, "but her family even stated that she never wanted to live a life that she couldn't be a part of."

Wrong. The only evidence that Mrs. Schiavo was opposed to life in that condition was the verbal testimony of her husband and his siblings. There was no other evidence, and the verbal testimony was directly contradicted by the testimony of Mrs. Schiavo's family. To ascribe such a wish to "her words" as you did is a stretch at best.

Also, did you intend to come across so cavalierly in that sentence? By writing "I realize it's a human life" and then qualifying this life by suggesting she never wanted to live like that, you seem to say some lives are more worthy of breath. Maybe I misunderstand your point.

Should her name be left out of the discussion? Why? The only valid reason I can see is to respect whatever shreds of privacy the family has left. Certainly this is a debate about her life, but it's also a larger debate about the value of human life in general, and the Schiavo name is synonymous with that effort. And yes, it's definitely about the courts, thus the current divide over judicial nominations and the reason for Ms. Stevens' article.

Back to your question — why do I care? Because of that larger debate about human life. I come from the perspective that we are formed by a loving Creator who endowed each of us with certain unalienable rights, that among these is life. (Sound familiar?) Thus I find myself unable to understand those who would so quickly write the death sentence of a woman because they think they know the unknowable — her quality of life, her wishes — or think they can determine her right to life. Who should determine that she was not participating in life up to the day the feeding tube was removed?

Is this all "intelligent" people have to discuss? (Nice use of scare quotes, by the way...) Absolutely not. It sounds like you're saying that because I've written what I did, I am choosing a shallow fight about ideology, that I have no concern about other issues.

I like it if people don't try to guess my motives and concerns without knowing me first. I chose this "fight" because extreme rhetoric on either side of the political divide, left unchecked, only begets more extreme rhetoric, and I believe it's necessary to point out the extremism in an attempt to nip it in the bud. It may indeed be setting myself up for disappointment, particularly if I expect political opposites to come around to my perspective, but I reject the labels of hatred and intolerance. The people of this country are capable of great, passionate debate about the issues of the day, debate that does not need to fall into character assassination to score points. I believe it is, indeed, compassionate to be concerned for those in society who cannot take care of themselves, whether that be a brain-damaged woman in a fight for her life, or a child starving on the streets.

Am I always consistent in my use of calm rhetoric? Probably not, and for that reason I take your comment as a good reminder to choose my battles wisely, to remember the big picture, and not to assume the worst about others.

Thanks again for your thoughts, and for your wish for a happier place.

Mr. T takes a hit

I think I fried a few brain cells just watching this...

I have a sudden urge

to go buy a gas guzzler. Must be the patriot in me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Oops, did I say that?

Sylvia Stevens, the president of the Multnomah Bar Association (based in Portland), writes a commentary in the MBA’s latest newsletter (PDF in link) that begs for refutation. It castigates those who would use overreaching rhetoric in the issue of judicial independence, but does so by utilizing, well, overreaching rhetoric.

Ms. Stevens’ discussion starts by throwing darts at the “highly-placed (and ostensibly intelligent) people [who] made outrageous statements castigating the courts and judges who defied the wishes of” Terri Schiavo’s parents. She also takes the media to task for its lack of “helpful and accurate explanations of the truth behind those judicial decisions.”

She continues:
The vast majority of Americans clearly disapproved of Congress’ intervention, seeing it for the political maneuvering it was, but there was also clearly more tolerance among the citizenry for those same Congressional leaders’ blaming the judiciary for their inability to “save” Ms. Schiavo. The blind acceptance of such rhetoric can only aid the cause of those who wish to dismantle the independence and legitimacy of our legal system and twist it to their own partisan ends.
I’m curious who she's thinking of when she notes these "outrageous statements," but I doubt she's talking about Michael Schiavo's attorney. (It's not until the very end of the article that she admits her target is "the right.") Her use of the phrase "ostensibly intelligent" basically tells me she thinks they're not. However, she's right about one thing: the media did not do a good job explaining the situation.
  • It did not talk about the wildly disparate opinions on whether Mrs. Schiavo was in a Persistent Vegetative State, nor the incredible difficulty in achieving a correct diagnosis of such, nor the questions about whether the proper tests were administered that might have shed some light on her condition.
  • It did not talk about the fact that Mrs. Schiavo's husband, appointed (correctly) her guardian after her brain injury, had lived with another woman for several years and fathered two children with the woman. It did not talk about the fact that Mr. Schiavo — whose duty was to make decisions that were inMrs. Schiavo 's best interests — withheld a variety of treatments over the last decade. It did not ask if a man who was simultaneously married toMrs. Schiavo and living with another could make decisions in Mrs. Schiavo's best interests.
  • It did not talk about the fact that while Mr. Schiavo's family supported his belief that Mrs. Schiavo "wouldn't want to live in such a state," the Schindler family disputed that notion and was ignored in every legal setting.
  • It did not talk about the fact that Congress' actions only asked for a new review of the case — the legislation never told the courts how to rule, but was passed under the assumption that any deliberate act of ending a human life should be based on solid evidence without the question marks and holes that were pervasive in this case.
I could write more, but you get the point. Ms. Stevens' other comments about how the "vast" majority of Americans opposed the actions of Congress seem true, but it's tough to gain an accurate opinion when you're relying on press reports that claim starvation is "painless."

Ms. Stevens is right to point out the unnecessary rhetoric of the right, which includes an 8-year-old quote from Tom DeLay ("The judges need to be intimidated") that has been conveniently resurrected for this occasion, and more recently has included James Dobson's unhelpful comment comparing judges to the KKK. Certainly, we must take any threat of violence seriously, though I would argue that the examples most recently cited (Cornyn & DeLay) are evidence of violent advocacy only to the most extreme left-wing loony toon wing of the Democratic party. Indeed, Ms. Stevens' comment that "We need to remind those who suggest that federal judges might deserve to get shot by frustrated litigants that the rule of law is what differentiates us from societies that resolve disputes with guns and fists" is among the more deceptive comments in the piece; no one (with a whit of credibility) is suggesting that judges "deserve to get shot," and to make such an assertion is irresponsible fear-mongering.

After verbally flogging those who want to "wage war on the judiciary" with their rhetoric and their secret meetings, Stevens violates Godwin's Law. This maxim of online discussion, which was created around 1989, originally stated:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
As it has floated around the internet over the past 16 years, it has evolved to a belief among many that “the invoking of the Nazis as a debating tactic (in any argument not directly related to World War II or the Holocaust) automatically loses the argument, simply because the nature of these events is such that any comparison to any event less serious than genocide or extinction is invalid and in poor taste.”

Here's where I flag Ms. Stevens for unsportsmanlike conduct:
Some of you will say I am overreacting to a situation that will eventually resolve itself; that the pendulum will sooner or later swing the other way. I am sure that is true. But much the same was said about Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and the cost of waiting for the return of reason was paid in years of world struggle and millions of human lives. I do not mean to compare the politics of the right with Nazis; I wish only to encourage action rather than complacence. And by action, I mean using our words to counter the campaign of misinformation that threatens our judicial system.
Ms. Stevens degrades the discussion by throwing in the Nazis in an effort to paint her opponent with the most offensive brush. Then, with the intended emotional tarring complete, she backs off as if to say: "Oops, did I say that?"

If she didn't mean to compare the politics of the right with Nazis, she shouldn't have done so. Instead, she flails around in the same rhetorical mud she criticizes her opponents for slinging.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Cruel & Unusual Punishment

Hugh Hewitt is broadcasting his radio show from Disneyland for the park's 50th anniversary, and his producer notes an odd request from his boss. If this were a sentence handed down against, say, a convicted terrorist, the ACLU would be screaming:
Today, Hugh concocted a much less physical, but far more mentally demanding challenge. It was my task to deliver, in honor of Disney's golden anniversary, 50 consecutive trips through It's a Small World. Stop laughing.

Everyone has ridden it at least once. Many have only ridden it once. I've lived within a reasonable drive of Disneyland my whole life, so let's just say that in my lifetime, the ride and I have become acquainted. Before I comment on the day's events, however, let me lay down a couple of facts. The ride itself, from the tunnel into the building to the tunnel out of the building, takes about ten and half minutes. The rest of the time is the return to the loading/unloading dock, and the trip to the building. That part of the ride depends largely on the crew working, the number of people in line, and what kind of physical shape the other riders are in. Second to keep in mind was the park opened at 10AM PST, and we ended our show at 6PM PST. It was going to be real tight to get 50 rides in.
Hugh, have mercy! (Or at least spell him for a few rounds...)

When will the Dems start winning again?

Victor Davis Hanson, writing in today's National Review Online, tackles this question. His answer, in typical VDH prose: when they start acting like normal folks. That is, when they find leaders who are not insulting the folks in Flyover Country (Howard Dean), who do not appear out of touch with reality due to their wealth (John Kerry) and their extreme left-wing politics (the San Francisco trio of Pelosi, Boxer & Feinstein) and who can convince a country that still remembers the death of thousands in a pair of New York towers about their commitment to protect all Americans (pick almost any prominent Democrat).

He tackles issues of:
  • Class — "The Democrats need a little more humility, a notion that the country is not so much an us/them dichotomy, but rather all of us together under siege to maintain our privileges in a tough global world — and at least one spokesman who either didn't go to prep school or isn't a lawyer."
  • Race — "In short, race-based thinking beyond protection of equal opportunity is fraught with public suspicion, especially when so many loud spokesmen for minorities — Jesse Jackson or Kweisi Mfume — either are elites themselves or do not practice the morality they preach."
  • Age — "The Democrats won on the Social Security issue years ago. Annual cost-of-living increases and vast expansions to the program helped to ensure that we no longer witness — as I did in rural California in the early 1960s — elderly with outhouses and without teeth and proper glasses. In fact, despite the rhetoric of Washington lobbying groups, those over 65 are now the most affluent and secure in our society . . . George Bush is appealing to a new group that really is threatened — the under-35's who cannot afford a house, have student loans, high car and health insurance, and are concerned that their poor therapeutic education will leave them impoverished as China and the rest of Asia race ahead."
However, it is his questions about the Democrats' defense stance that rang most true with me, and indicated one of their biggest challenges. Here's Hanson:
The problem with Democrats is that Americans are not convinced that they will ever act in any consistent manner. We can argue about Afghanistan, but if one were to go back and read accounts in October 2001 about hitting back, the news reflected liberals' doubt about both the wisdom and efficacy of taking out the Taliban.

Would Al Gore have invaded Afghanistan less than a month after 9/11? If John Kerry were President and China invaded Taiwan, what would he do?

What would an administration advised by Madeline Albright, Barbara Boxer, Joe Biden, Jamie Rubin, Nancy Pelosi, or Jimmy Carter do if Iran sent a nuke into Israel, or North Korea fired a series of missiles over the top of Japan?

Or, if al Qaeda, operating from a sanctuary in Iran or Syria, took out the Sears Tower, how would a Kennedy, Kerry, or Gore respond? Six cruise missiles? A police matter? Proper work for the DA? Better "intelligence"? Let's work with our allies? Get the U.N. involved?

Whatever we think of George Bush, we know he would do something real — and just what that something might be frightens into hesitation — and yes, fear — many of those who would otherwise like to try something pretty awful.
The entire thing is excellent. Read it all.

"An astonishingly stupid political calculation..."

Hugh Hewitt, writing about the Religious Right duel between Taranto & Hutchens:
A handful of hard-left ranters, dressed up with some polished stylists like Hitchens, have decided that the path to 2008 lies in an aggressive campaign against people of faith who vote Republican. This is truly an astonishingly stupid political calculation, but one in which Senate Democrats have joined. If you attend church nearly weekly and vote GOP, the Democrats think you are a menace, and to be blocked not just from the judiciary but from public life. The intensity of the hatred for people of faith coming from the left is new and remarkable in that it is pervasive and indiscriminate. In November the Democrats were wondering about how to appeal to "values voters." Six months later they have launched an offensive against them all, eager to complete their exile from the party and even from politics.
I'm not sure I agree that this will mean an exile from politics, much less the party, but I hope there will be some political consequence to the Democrats' anti-faith rhetoric.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Religious Right Pro & Con

The online edition of today's Wall Street Journal opinion page, OpinionJournal.com, has opposing views on the future of the "Religious Right" in American politics. The pro side is written by OpinionJournal.com's editor, James Taranto. The con side is written by Christopher Hitchens, a writer for a variety of "progressive" publications such as Vanity Fair, Atlantic Monthly & Slate.

Both are well written and interesting. As a regular reader of Taranto's daily Best of the Web, I enjoy his writing, though I daresay Taranto does not make as strong an argument as I would have preferred. I would have liked, for instance, more evidence that judges are being opposed for their personal religious views.

Hitchens' first mistake was calling Jesus a "possibly mythical Nazarene," but I will choose to overlook that mistake despite the mounds of evidence supporting the existence of such a man 2,000 years ago in Israel.

He also displays an apparent lack of knowledge about Christianity (really, that's the limit of his definition of the Religious Right) as he tries to poke fun at Christians about what Jesus indicated as the most important commandment. He quotes the 18th chapter of Luke:
A certain ruler asked [Jesus], "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.' "

"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
"No 'Moral Majority' type," Hitchens wrote, "has yet proposed that the most important commandment, the one underlined by Jesus himself, be displayed in courtrooms or schoolrooms." Maybe I misunderstand Hitchens, but I don't think Jesus' story in Luke highlights the most important commandment. If you read Mark 12:28-31, you find out what Jesus really thought about that topic:
One of the teachers of the law . . . asked [Jesus], "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
Hitchens also attempts to cast Christian businessmen in a bad light through backhanded suggestion that the Bible universally condemns money other than for its use as gifts to the poor, so they are hypocrites to work for monetary reward. Again, this shows a profound lack of knowledge about the Bible, which is chock full of guidance in the area of finances.

Thus, it becomes evident in short order that Hitchens takes a rooting interest in the demise of the Religious Right because he is part of the camp that looks down its nose at people of faith.

He then suggests that the Religious Right is listening only to the teachings of Jesus — which contributes to a "shallow, demagogic and above all sectarian religiosity" — to the exclusion of such "modern intellectuals" as Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss. He fails, at least to my shallow little mind, to explain why Rand and Strauss are superior to Saul of Tarsus, the Mouse of Disney, or anyone in between. Apparently, Christians aren't smart enough to read the right philosophers, so we must be guided by people like Christopher Hitchens.

Even though he supported Bush ("slightly"), this Democrat can't explain why greater numbers of American Jews switched to George W. Bush in the 2004 election, so he belittles the Republican Party (as if the entirety of the party consists of people of faith) by asking if it plans to welcome these Jewish voters by shoving the most irrelevant of tenets down their throats through megaphonic televangelists like Falwell. (Does Hitchens think Falwell and Pat Robertson are the official spokesmen for the Religious Right? That would show a remarkable lack of knowledge about the subject he's addressing. Maybe they were 20 years ago, but their day has passed.) Hitchens can't stand the thought that maybe the Jewish vote moved toward Bush because the Jewish voters found more to like in the GOP and less to appreciate in the Democrats.

In referring to Falwell & Robertson, he wonders why such "grotesque characters . . . are allowed a respectful hearing, or a hearing at all, among patriotic Republicans?" Maybe it's because the Republicans are able to discuss disagreements without calling the other side names (such as "bigot," a friendly term Hitchens uses to describe the Religious Right near the end of his article). Maybe it's because they see the value in a diverse group presenting a united front. Taranto described this nicely near the end of his piece:
Last week an article in The Nation, a left-wing weekly, described the motley collection of religious figures who gathered for Justice Sunday. A black minister stood next to a preacher with a six-degrees-of-separation connection to the Ku Klux Klan. A Catholic shared the stage with a Baptist theologian who had described Roman Catholicism as "a false church."

These folks may not be your cup of tea, but this was a highly ecumenical group, united on some issues of morality and politics but deeply divided on matters of faith. The thought that they could ever agree enough to impose a theocracy is laughable.

And the religious right includes not only Christians of various stripes but also Orthodox Jews and even conservative Muslims. Far from the sectarian movement its foes portray, it is in truth a manifestation of the religious pluralism that makes America great. Therein lies its strength."
But after all this, it is Hitchens' final sentences that take the cake. He argues that the only hope for our soldiers overseas is if secular governments are established in Iraq & Afghanistan and establish the wall between church and state to hold out the extremist influences that had previously prevailed. That hope, however, is being "stabbed in the back" by the Religious Right, which is consistently breaching that wall. This is Hitchens' biggest reach. To claim that Islamist extremism is somehow equivalent to Christian conservatism is no more accurate than saying all Republicans are ready to follow Eric Randolph to the next clinic bombing, or all Democrats have a problem with young female interns. The last time I checked, members of the Religious Right weren't strapping sticks of dynamite under their clothing and wandering willy nilly through the malls of America. Even strong disagreement between the ACLU and Focus on the Family does not begin to approach the twisted religious beliefs of an Islamic extremist.

Hitchens ends with a call for GOP leaders to "disown and condemn the creeping and creepy movement to impose orthodoxy" on our country, as if Christians have no right to follow their conscience in civic participation. I like the way Paul Mirengoff at Powerline dealt with this in his comments:
Hitchens writes as moralistically as any pundit. His views of what is moral don't stem from Christianity (nor do mine), but they must be rooted in some core values and beliefs. On what grounds does he contend that policy makers should consider moral judgments founded in his belief system but ignore on principle those grounded in fundamentalist Christianity?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The inmates are running the asylum

Reuters reports that the 13-year-old girl in Florida, a ward of the state because her birth parents' rights were terminated, will be allowed to abort her baby (oops, sorry, fetus).

The state had initially objected, saying she was not mature enough to make such a choice, and that state law prevents the Department of Children & Families from consenting to sterilization, abortion or termination of life support. It now says it will not appeal a state court ruling allowing the abortion to proceed.

Of course, the story has its share of comments about the Terri Schiavo case, and makes sure to mention that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the president's lil' bro (just in case you didn't know that them Bushies are a bunch of right-wing wack jobs).

But here's the money-quote:
"The constitutional right belongs to the child, and it belongs to the child even if the parents object," said Mary Coombs, a family law professor at the University of Miami. "In this case, DCF didn't have any more right than the parents."
Did ya catch that? The "Constitutional Right" to abort the unborn child of a 13-year-old girl belongs to that child even if the parents object. Never mind that under Florida law, the girl was statutorily raped after she ran away from a state-run group home. Never mind that she's not old enough to make any other decision of this magnitude.

The rights of the parents — in this case, the state — and their responsibilities in bringing up this child? They don't matter. It's far more important to keep the ACLU happy.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Ellen Goodman's abortion rant of the week

You can always count on Ellen Goodman to take the Democrats' talking points on abortion to heart, and this week is no exception. Goodman writes in yesterday's Boston Globe about the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which passed the House of Representatives last week.

Under the law, only a parent could transport a minor across state lines for an abortion. Not an aunt, a grandmother, or an older sister. "This," Goodman writes, "is why Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America calls it 'The Grandparent Incarceration Law.' "

That sounds so good for the evening news soundbite, but there's one problem with it: none of those people have legal responsibility for the child. If they are a legal guardian, the bill says they can take the child wherever they choose, but otherwise the child is not their responsibility.

The problem, Goodman insinuates, is that:

- It's not necessary.
"We know that about 60 percent of all pregnant teenagers already notify their parents the old-fashioned way: face to face. We know that when teenagers cross state lines, it's often to find the nearest clinic, not toavoid the law."
She doesn't say how "we" know this, but the most notable thing about that paragraph is that if
60 percent of all pregnant teenagers notified their parents, that means 40 percent did not. That, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, is about 100,000 teenage girls in the year 2000. The AGI does indicate through a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that 60 percent of teens tell their parents they are sexually active, but I couldn't find anything indicating such a percentage of pregnant teens.

Also, the line about why teenagers cross state lines is subterfuge. If a pregnant teenage is crossing the state line to visit an abortion clinic without a parent in tow, it doesn't matter why. The parent, with legal responsibility for the child, may not know what the child is doing or who is motivating that action. If the laws of the state on the other side of the border are looser than those in the girl's home state, the parent might never know.

As Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) said in Goodman's article, "It's too difficult for me to explain to the average constituent why I voted against notifying a parent that a minor child is about to get an abortion." And that brings me to Goodman's other insinuation:

- It doesn't solve the problem.
"We know as well — although we find it hard to admit — that some girls who believe 'my parents will kill me' are not far off the mark."
This, again, is subterfuge. If a minor is the subject of sexual abuse or other physical abuse by a parent, this law allows an abortion provider to instead notify the appropriate state child abuse agency. In addition, if a minor successfully petitions the court for an exception to parental consent in her state, that exception is legally valid in any other state.

Goodman finishes with several other attempts to change the subject:
  • "You don't need parental consent to have sex . . . Nor do you need parental consent to continue a pregnancy."
  • "What if the parent wanted an abortion and the daughter said no? Would the parent still warrant an ''immediate say"?
  • "There is no right to know when their daughter is in the delivery room. Nor does any law give a parent the right to decide whether her daughter keeps the baby or puts it up for adoption."
You can do a lot of stupid things without a parent's consent. I know I did. Not every parent has the capacity to make good decisions, either, and it's entirely possible that a parent could force an abortion upon his or her minor child. But that's not the point. Society gives — no, expects — parents to guide their children through life so they can make good choices. If the parent is left out of the loop on so important an issue, one that could potentially end the life of that child, society might as well tell its children to get a job at age 6 and figure out life on their own.

Goodman finishes by inadvertently making my point: "Parents do want to know. We want to be involved in our kids' lives. So we push and pull our mutual way through adolescence. But we can't succeed on that journey by closing down state lines. It only works when we manage to keep the family conversation lines open."

And by keeping parents out of the loop on decisions such as this, those family conversation lines will never make a connection.

You found me!

This post pushed me over the edge to explore some other options for blogging. iBlog was a good place to start, but it requires me to know HTML to take advantage of some features, and I just don't have the time to deal with that.

So for now, I'm giving Blogger a try.

UPDATE: OK, so Blogger requires that, too. I guess I can't escape it.